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  1. #1
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    effects of fasting on metabolism?

    I have a question about my BPs but I've only really seen this topic discussed among boa owners so I figured I'd drop it here.
    My male ball python went off food for 10 weeks last winter, I tried to be as calm about it as I could and just let him fast, offering food every 4 weeks or so but otherwise I didn't do anything to try to persuade him to eat. His weight fluctuated by only a few grams that I assume was from drinking and passing water, but his body seemed to change a lot. It seems like all the fat he had on him was converted to muscle and his frame got more "mature" looking in a way that's hard to describe - he looks much less babyish around the face I guess. The very end of his tail, where it's basically scale and bone, is about twice as thick around. He also seems much more confident and active now, but that might just be him settling in and being comfortable here. All in all the fast seemed to really agree with him and he seemed healthier coming out of it.
    I've heard boa owners allude to extended fasts triggering a change in metabolism that is a natural part of snake development, but can't find any details on this process - does anyone know more about it? I assume he's going to go off food again this year, and my female has just turned a year old so I wonder if it's worth having her fast too? Or do only males do this? If she doesn't go off food herself I'm wondering if it's healthy to try withholding food for, for example, a month in winter and see if she goes through a similar process, or is that not a good idea?
    I'm very interested in following a more "natural" feeding regimen with them - I read some papers about python digestive processes and it said they can take a full week just to wind down from the physiological changes, so since they're both out of the rapid baby growth stage I moved them to eating every other week, and as a result I feel like they're more active in their tanks and when they're out for handling, since they're not constantly recovering from eating a meal. I think it's been a positive change on a small scale but I'm also curious about larger-scale fasting and if it's healthy for them.

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  3. #2
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    What a great question- I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts & experiences about this too, actually. Don't have any answers for you, other than I don't think I'd "force" a fast, especially on a female- but if they do it themselves, that's a different thing. But bear in mind, I don't breed BPs- so you want input from those who do.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  5. #3
    Registered User Argentum's Avatar
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    I can't answer the effects on metabolism, but I can say that the person I got both of my adult BP's from had a different snake that fasted for almost an entire year. At the end of that time, its weight had barely decreased, it still looked healthy, and it started eating again on its own. He had decided on the attitude of 'as long as it looks okay and isn't dropping weight, let it do what it wants'. During that time, other snakes in the exact same environment and situation had never stopped eating at all.
    BP: 1.2

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  7. #4
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    I think it's clearly something snakes evolved to do "as needed"- whether or not they're actually brumating thru winter weather. And I also think most of our pets are on the side of being "over-fed"- mine too- because most of us feed on a regular basis, which doesn't happen in their "real (outdoor) life", plus our captive pets are much less active than their wild counterparts. And another important thing- the wild rodents (& other prey) they'd normally consume in the wild are far leaner than our grain-fed domestic rodents. Oops.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  9. #5
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: effects of fasting on metabolism?

    So much ball python stuff is focused on getting them up to breeding size as fast as possible. Balls and burms seem to be overfed by default most of the time but I do see a lot of keepers and breeders talking about focusing on more healthy feeding for them and growing them up more slowly.

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  11. #6
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Re: effects of fasting on metabolism?

    Quote Originally Posted by plateOfFlan View Post
    So much ball python stuff is focused on getting them up to breeding size as fast as possible. Balls and burms seem to be overfed by default most of the time but I do see a lot of keepers and breeders talking about focusing on more healthy feeding for them and growing them up more slowly.
    For some people, it's about breeding size, but also, I think that most of us humans just feel a bit uneasy when the pets we love aren't eating as much as we think they need- after all, we eat all day, & even though we "know" that snakes don't do that, we still have trouble relating to animals that can do that so easily for months at a time.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  13. #7
    BPnet Royalty Gio's Avatar
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    I don't have enough time to go into my own response, however there are many field studies that deal with the metabolic processes of certain snakes. Most boas and pythons have evolved over millions and millions of years to survive feast and famine conditions. Much of their feeding success correlates with seasonal changes. Those changes bring migration and breeding patterns of mammals and birds that the snakes feed on into their territory.

    Captivity changes everything. Having constant, perfect conditions with an endless water supply and steady food supply will make a captive snake's life different than that of a wild one. It could be better or it could be worse.

    Like I said above the topic is too involved for me to discuss and I'm certainly not an expert. I find our Royal python sets her own schedule and when she stops eating for 8 months, I don't sweat it.

    Below are some field studies I dug up for anybody interested. They are not 100% in line with the question but there are things to learn.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...nse_to_feeding


    This one is not python specific.
    https://academic.oup.com/icb/article/50/5/880/646116


    These studies may not be directly related to your question although if you read through all of them, you can piece together some of them and possibly find some answers.
    https://ssecor.people.ua.edu/python-model.html

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00693366


    https://cob.silverchair-cdn.com/cob/...5G5CRDK6RD3PGA

    These popped for me after some quick digging. I'm sure if you are motivated enough you can find more.

    There is also a book:

    https://www.amazon.com/Biology-Boas-.../dp/B0010EHZDA

    There is a lot of fieldwork in the book.

    Enjoy your research.

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  15. #8
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: effects of fasting on metabolism?

    Amazing! Thanks, Gio!

    That burmese study or one like it is what convinced me that adult ball pythons generally shouldn't be fed weekly, since their system needs to recover from the incredible ramp-up it goes through to digest. If I remember right their heart and other organs actually grow larger in size, amazing stuff.

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  17. #9
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Re: effects of fasting on metabolism?

    Quote Originally Posted by plateOfFlan View Post
    Amazing! Thanks, Gio!

    That burmese study or one like it is what convinced me that adult ball pythons generally shouldn't be fed weekly, since their system needs to recover from the incredible ramp-up it goes through to digest. If I remember right their heart and other organs actually grow larger in size, amazing stuff.
    Funny you mention that, as I've always thought the feeding chart on this site (that promotes weekly feeding) seemed excessive (for adult BPs especially). Hmm...
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  19. #10
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: effects of fasting on metabolism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gio View Post
    ... Captivity changes everything. Having constant, perfect conditions with an endless water supply and steady food supply will make a captive snake's life different than that of a wild one. It could be better or it could be worse.
    This is a good (and politely worded) point - I guess I shouldn't get too hung up on "natural". After all, one of my tarantulas is from an area with seasonal flooding, but that doesn't mean I'm pouring bucketfuls of water in her enclosure every year to be more "natural." If there was a demonstrated benefit to her from flooding, like say triggering her to know it's mating season or something, then it'd be something to consider. So I guess my question was really, is there evidence of any benefit to the animal from lengthy fasting, to the point where I should go out of my way to try and induce one? And the answer seems to be there isn't any evidence supporting it. My anecdotal observations of my male could be due to any number of things including just regular aging and have nothing to do with his going off food. So, I'll continue with my current feeding schedule Thanks for everyone's thoughts on the topic though!

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